BREAK IT DOWN: The Kettlebell Windmill

By Maggie Fazeli Fard |

The kettlebell windmill is a valuable mobility exercise that challenges midline rotation and full-body stability and flexibility — particularly through the shoulders, thoracic spine, hips, and hamstrings.

Each person’s windmill will be as individual as his or her anatomy and unique mobility, but there are a few common pitfalls that detract from the best form:

  1. Using too much weight: Start with no weight, then load lightly and progressively. Do not try to max out your overhead press with a windmill.

Incorporate windmills as part of your warm-up, cool-down, or off-day recovery session. Two sets of three to five reps, with a focus on form, will go a long way.

1. With feet under your hips, press a single kettlebell overhead. Turn both feet away from the side of your extended arm, angling them about 45 degrees.

Tip: Keep both feet planted firmly, without shifting or raising either heel.

2. Shift your weight back on the same 45-degree line to keep your outside hip stacked over your ankle. Keep a soft bend in the opposite knee.

Focus on extending the outside leg. 

3. With your extended arm reaching toward the ceiling, rotate through your thoracic spine. Keep your eyes on the kettlebell.

4. Keep your bottom arm close to your front leg. Lower yourself only as far as your mobility allows, then reverse the motion to come to standing.

Tip: Maintain a soft bend in the front knee and allow your lower arm to trace the inside of your leg as you move through the exercise.

Perform the movement as described without holding any additional weight. Focus on the hip shift-and-lift, the midline rotation, and extending your arms straight away from each other.This variation is a useful starting point for beginners as well as those who struggle to perform the standing version without turning the windmill into a side bend.Perform the movement as described while holding a kettlebell only in the bottom hand. This can be a useful progression betweenand a top-loaded windmill. It’s also useful a useful way to increase the challenge for the hips without overloading theof the arm extended overhead. Just because you are adding weight in the bottom arm, don’t forget the top arm: Focus on keeping the shoulder capsule stable as you reach straight toward the ceiling throughout the movement.Perform the movement as described while holding kettlebells in both the top and bottom hands. This is the most challenging variation, so take your time, don’t add too-heavy weights, and limit the number of reps to what you can perform with utmost control.

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